Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Uganda Summer Mission 2011 - a brief overview!

So it's been a while again, sorry! I feel I should update this blog again as I've now been in Uganda a month and the team just left this morning. I think I'm beginning to forget to update this as this used to be a blog about my struggles settling in here and all the weird things I was experiencing - but now it feels like home, so I should really have nothing to write about!

But that's not true, I have plenty to write about. In the last month I've had so many experiences of God's faithfulness and love for Ugandan women, and us! I was joined by a team of 7 girls from the UK, some from England and some from Scotland. Most of them had never been to Africa, and none had been to sub-saharan Africa that wasn't SA (so much more westernised down there!).

So it's been an eye-opening experience for them, I think, and I really enjoyed seeing it all through their eyes again. Seeing cows in the road or three people on a motorbike is apparently unusual! It was so exciting to join their excitement and love Uganda as a newcomer again. They tried matooke and g-nut sauce for the first time, used a drop toilet and bucket-washed in an open outside bathroom - all with grace and joy and no complaints. What a team!

We came here to work with Community Christian Family Ministries, particularly their GETS programme, a 6 month discipleship programme for young women. It's run by an amazing woman called Mabel Twinamasiko, who began the project completely on faith and still runs most of it without outside donations. She is passionate about families but particularly empowering women, and has a vision of a Uganda where women are educated and able to work and support their families and lift themselves out of seemingly hopeless situations such as abuse or lack of money to educate their children. She's become a very good friend of mine and we're talking about my working more closely with her in the future - but that's for another post!

The 8 of us joined Mabel and 3 of her girls for a month of mission, ministry and classes. Unfortunately the fourth girl had to go home the day after we left due to ill health - please pray for a speedy recovery for her.

Before we arrived in Mbarara to join them, though, we met the Ugandan Navigators staff at their office in Kampala, and were joined by two Navigators staff - Susan and Irene, in a tour of Kampala and Entebbe. It was so exciting to share with them our vision for students growing in faith and maturity and knowing they share that vision. I think I've met two new good friends, and am so excited about getting to know them better as I spent more time with the Navigators in Uganda. There are hints and mentions of new Navigator workers needed in Mbarara, particularly young women. I'm getting excited, but it's all in God's hands!

We headed down to Mbarara, but on the way were delayed for an hour by one of the worst crashes I've ever seen on Ugandan roads - or any road, for that matter! I think we counted four vehicles involved, mostly lorries. It was a scary reminder of just how unsafe this country can be, and was a pretty big shock to most of the girls, I think. Uganda certainly didn't ease us into real life here lightly..! But we arrived safely and squeezed too many girls into each of the cars that came to pick us up - and I was reminded again how unusual that is, and how entertaining :)

For the next week or so we joined the GETS girls for their normal classes, learning about discipleship, life skills, character building and Bible study, as well as our girls teaching computing and sketching. It was an intense week of learning but we also shared some of our testimonies with each other, and it was an emotional time of sharing God's work in our lives through our mistakes and misfortunes, and His complete faithfulness and love throughout the different things that have happened to each of us. I was reminded just how similar young women all over the world are, and that we all struggle with similar things even when culture separates us.

What followed was the most intense week, when we went out to the village where Mabel grew up and reached out to the community their in church, school and people's homes. We almost didn't make it, as we borrowed a minibus that seemed to be from the stone ages, and broke down with most of it inside us on the way down. An engineer was called and he came and took the seats out and what seemed like most of the engine.. We abandoned it and flagged down a passing minibus-taxi to get us down to the village. Our bus arrived 6 hours later - and that wasn't the last time it broke down on us. I've now learned that sometimes it's better to pay for quality than go for the free option..

Through our ministry we saw 12 people give their lives to Jesus - what an honour! Please pray for them as they begin their walk with God and for the local church as it follows them up and supports them in their faith. One women who 'got saved' was a well known fortune teller, and we went to visit her at her home where what seemed like the whole village was celebrating and praising God for her salvation! We heard her story of being trapped into serving spirits and telling fortunes, and how hearing of God's love for her despite what she'd done had helped her decide to give her life to Him. Her husband was not a Christian either, but decided to give his life to Christ after hearing his wife's honest testimony. It was an unbelievable day!

We also taught at the local school for two afternoons. It was up a painfully steep hill and we would arrived sweaty and exhausted, only to need to be energetic and cheerful for a bunch of children - only by God's grace did we not faint in the heat of the sun and from lack of water! But we had an amazing time. Beth (my co-leader) and I had the oldest group of 12+ and took them through the themes of God's love and how they don't need to be afraid any more because of what He's done for them through Jesus. We taught them some songs and played games but most importantly God spoke through us and 4 girls gave their lives to Christ. Wow!

To be continued.. I'm off to watch Harry Potter and the only cinema in Uganda. Yey!